Coming of Age

In 1964, two years prior to Lesotho becoming an independent nation, the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society formally handed over the leadership of its mission church in Lesotho, the Church of Basutoland, to the Basotho people. This event was known as the church’s Thuthuho or “Coming of Age”. The event marked the beginning of a new era and the church took on the name of the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC), which last year was changed to the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA). The picture at right shows the passing of the torch, representing the light and power of the Gospel, from the French missionary Rev. Pierre Cuprie to the first Mosotho LEC Moderator, Rev. Elijah Phakisi.

In 1964, two years prior to Lesotho becoming an independent nation, the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society formally handed over the leadership of its mission church in Lesotho, the Church of Basutoland, to the Basotho people.  This event was known as the church’s Thuthuho or “Coming of Age”.  The event marked the beginning of a new era and the church took on the name of the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC), which last year was changed to the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA).  The passing of the torch represents the light and power of the Gospel, from the French missionary Rev. Pierre Cuprie to the first Mosotho LEC Moderator, Rev. Elijah Phakisi.

April 2014 marked the 50th anniversary or Jubilee of the LECSA’s Thuthuho and special celebrations commemorating the event are being held over the next twelve months.  These began with a major weekend event in Morija on the last weekend of April.  The theme for the Thuthuho celebrations are the words from 1 Samuel 7:12 which Samuel spoke after raising a stone and naming it Ebenezer in gratitude to God for answering his plea for help on behalf of the Israelites in their battle with the Philistines.  Through the inevitable ups and downs faced by both institutions and individuals as they come of age, it is truly by God’s grace and goodness that we find ourselves where we are today.  Nothing that has been achieved is because of our righteousness.  As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God --- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

The weekend included a variety of events, beginning with worship on Saturday morning followed by speeches by dignitaries from the government, church and Royal Family.  The children present were happy to busy themselves collecting birthday balloons marking the occasion.  Children and youth also provided the afternoon highlight by presenting a play depicting various scenes in the history of the church, including the arrival of the three French missionaries to meet King Moshoeshoe back in 1833.

Seshoeshoe fabric is part of the cultural identity of the Basotho, especially for the women who use it for their national dress.  Special seshoeshoe was designed using the Thuthuho logo.  The material was available for sale and many church members had beautiful dresses and shirts made for the occasion which they wore with pride.  Other items of memorabilia, including badges, commemorative plates and bumper stickers were also sold to help raise funds for the event.

On Saturday night, an evening service with several sermons and Holy Communion was followed by the release of more than a hundred sky lanterns which floated off into the midnight sky.  Shortly afterwards was the lighting of a solar-powered Jubilee Lamp at the top of the Makhoarane Plateau which forms the backdrop to Morija.  The beacon comes on each evening and shines brightly through the darkness, just like the Light of the Gospel.

Sunday morning’s worship service appropriately included the ordination of three pastors. The oaths of ordination were administered by the LECSA Moderator Rev. Tseliso Simeon Masemene.  Eighty LECSA pastors extended their arms of blessing on the trio of two men and one woman.

The memory of the weekend’s events that stays most vividly with me is that of the sky lanterns and the Jubilee Lamp.  Floating gently away, the lanterns symbolize that we are not to keep the Light of God’s Good News to ourselves.  It is meant to be shared with others:  “…let your light shine…that they may see…and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).  The beacon is fixed in place up on the plateau and its brightness immediately draws attention.  Jesus said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself”. (John 12:32).  The beacon’s light, a sign of hope, penetrates the darkness.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5).

Yours in Christ,

Mark Behle serves with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is working to identify development projects, assist the church in preparing project proposals and coordinating project implementation.